by Andrew Morrison | When Le Gavroche closed last month after some 35 years in business at 1616 Alberni, I half expected to see its old Victorian shell knocked down in favour of some crappy condo that a prominent architect staffed out to a junior with a lazy eye. Despite the best efforts of Chef Robert Guest, the place felt done after longtime owner Manny Ferreira decamped for Miradoro in the Okanagan, which sort of explains why a bailiff had to eventually slap a notice on the locked front door exclaiming $80,000 in unpaid rent. To put it another way, nobody went.
The good news, of course, is that it’s not going to be demolished to make way for the kinds of buildings that have robbed Coal Harbour of the personality it used to have. It’s been picked up by chef Neil Taylor, Ed Perrow, and Georgia Goritsas, the same triumvirate that brought us Espana on Denman Street two years ago. They signed the deal on the space earlier today.
It’s going to be a proper British gastropub, which makes sense since both Perrow and Taylor are English imports.
They’re calling it The Fat Badger.
“Before we opened Espana,” Perrow says, “Neil and I always talked about a doing a proper pub when we sat and reminisced about the places we used to drink at in Chiswick and Hammersmith.” So what does a “proper pub” mean? I’ve been told to expect some local craft beers plus a few British classics (London Pride, Fullers, etc.), a little “by the glass” wine list, a handful of cocktails, and Neil’s always reliably good food. “We want to keep the menu small,” Perrow points out, adding that the goal is to change it two or three times a week, “depending on what we are getting in fresh from local suppliers.”
Taylor says we can anticipate a “casual, warm environment” with British gastropub-style dishes. At dinner, “you can expect to see dishes such as roast pork belly with colcannon; black pudding and cider; grilled lamb with pea purée, morels and mint sauce; roast cod with spinach, baby onions, wild mushrooms and red wine; and some classics like Lancashire hot pot and braised oxtail with suet dumplings. Appetizers could feature potted Dungeness crab with buttered toast, fried pigs trotters with English mustard, or jellied ham hock and rabbit terrine with piccalilly.”
And what about lunch?
“For lunch we will have a delicious burger with aged English cheddar or even Stilton; a daily pie such as fish, steak and kidney pudding, chicken, ham and leek; and soups such as cock-a-leekie, Cullen skink, or game and lentil. For desserts, we will have dishes like eton mess, sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream, treacle tart with custard, lemon meringue pie and arctic roll, homemade ice creams, and a great selection of British and Irish cheeses. Bar snacks could include black pudding scotched eggs with HP sauce, hand-cut fries with curry sauce, London pride battered cod and chips with tartare sauce.”
Sounds great, but will there be roast beef and Yorkshires? Yes. Every Sunday, The Fat Badger will be tabling a special traditional roast, be it rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish “or roast leg of lamb with mint sauce or roast pork shoulder with hot English mustard and apple sauce.”
The Fat Badger will be open for lunch and dinner, with brunch service on the weekends. Hours will probably be 11am to 11pm. Expect a quick turnaround on this. I imagine they’ll be ready for their first service at some point in April.
by Andrew Morrison | Seigo Nakamura the owner of the Miku and Minami restaurants, has just taken possession of 620 West Pender St. in downtown Vancouver. Instead of continuing on with the aburi-sushi theme of his previous eateries, this newly renovated 2,700 sqft space will focus squarely on gyozas. Given Nakamura’s evident dedication to quality and doing things a little differently (Miku and Minami are both excellent originals), I trust that Gyoza Bar – as it’s being called – will be in the business of stuffing the little Japanese dumplings with all manner of unique and interesting flavours. I’ve been assured that there will be other items on the menu as well, but gyozas – ahem – will be king. Bonus: wine, sake, and beer on tap. Anticipate an opening at some point in June, 2014.
Local food industry veterans Miju Kawai and Hiroshi Kawai are aiming to open a darling little Japanese cafe this week or the next with their daughter, Moeno. The 16 seater is called Basho, which means “place” in Japanese. It’s located at 2007 East Hastings St., just a block east of Victoria Drive.
Hiroshi and Miju are lifers. They owned a neighbourhood lunch spot in Yokohama before moving to Canada to open North Van’s Kokoro eatery in 1994. After selling it nearly a decade later, they opened Hiroshi’s Sushi Creations on Oak Street in 2005 (it’s now called Tokiwa).
Inspired by the neighbourhood coffee shops that they loved and hung out in on adventures in Tokyo and Berlin, the Kawai’s want Basho to be a den of coziness with small personal touches that give off genuine warmth. Almost everything in Basho is handmade by the family, from the furniture and stained glass by Hiroshi to the pottery, quilts and knits by Miju and the aprons and wood carvings by Moeno. All the plates, cups, and dishes were either sourced from local thrift stores or made by hand. The music is all vinyl.
In addition to Japanese sencha, genmaicha and bancha, Basho will be steeping 3 black teas, 1 rooibos, and 1 herbal tea, plus coffee from Hand Works Coffee Studio. For food, there will be lunch sets of salads, sandwiches, and rice bowls, not to mention house-baked sweets. Expect matcha flavours, Japanese style crème caramels, and mochi.
As it stands now, they’re just one permit away from unlocking their doors. When they get the green light, the hours will be Tuesday through Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm. In the meantime, you can follow them and stay up to date on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
by Andrew Morrison | A new ice cream parlour officially opened today on the West 4th strip in Kits. Rain Or Shine is a nine seat beauty brought to us by Josie Fenton and Blair Casey, two first timers with backgrounds in teaching and finance.
The pair were married just last year and they’re super gung-ho about feeding us high quality ice cream (made in the back using an Emery Thompson machine) without artificial flavours, corn syrup, or any nasties. They’re also wicked friendly, and share playful senses of humour and design; witness their ice cream tacos, weather report signage, milk bottle light fixtures, tractor seat stools, fetching aprons, and the horse shoe nailed to the wall behind their ice cream machine.
They offer fifteen flavours at a time – ten permanent “keepers” and five fluctuating “seasonal flings”. I tried a few yesterday – salted caramel, mint chocolate, stout, blueberry – and they were fantastic. Nearly all of their ingredients are locally sourced. Think honey from Campbells in Aldergrove, lavender from Octagon in Maple Ridge, apples from Taves Farm in Abbotsford, wine from Vancouver Urban Winery, espresso beans from JJ Bean, beer from Brassneck, et cetera.
The stuff that they can’t find locally – things like coconuts and ginger – are organic and fair trade. They use compostable packaging, and get their power from Cowpower, a local non-profit green electricity supplier that provides BC businesses, homes and events with renewable electricity solutions. They haven’t left out the vegans either, so top marks across the board.
I love the name, the location, the passion, and the branding by Glasfurd & Walker (see also Meat & Bread, Ask For Luigi, among many others). These guys are stoked about what they’re doing, and it comes across clearly and deliciously on the spoon. Check out some more photographs below…
1926 West 4th Ave | 12pm to 10pm Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday) | rainorshineicecream.com
by Andrew Morrison | I’ve been sitting on this story for a few months now, having agreed to keep quiet about it on the understanding that I’d be the first to tell it once the time was right and the ducks were lined in their proverbial row. It’s great to finally be able to break the good news about Chambar’s expansion.
With the end of their lease for Chambar and Cafe Medina on the horizon, owners Karri and Nico Schuermans, with Robbie Kane of Medina, have agreed to move out of their current side by side locations on Beatty Street. (For the sake of brevity, we’ll cover what Robbie has planned for Medina in a follow-up post and only cover Chambar’s move in this one)
The Belgian/Moroccan-themed themed Chambar, inarguably the most impactful restaurant to open in Vancouver in the last decade, will be moving into the building next door that is currently under the renovation knife (see the rendering below). They take possession of the two-level space very soon, and hope to have the “new” Chambar open at some point this summer (June at the very earliest).
The new restaurant will be roughly twice the size of the current one, with about 270 seats between two levels, a 50 seat patio, and private rooms that can fit 20 – 80 people. There are lots of opportunities for new design motifs to fit in with the old, but I suspect it will look very similar to the original. Yes, in addition to the branding, relaxed vibe, deep drinks programs, and casual flirtations with fine dining, much of its furniture will also be making the move, which is great news because who doesn’t love the original tables, couches, banquettes and button-ed up red booths? ”The layout will be just like the old Chambar,” Karri explains, pointing out how the front will be the lounge and bar area that narrows at the waist to open up into a dining room. “The new place has brick and beams, too,” she adds, referring to the core aesthetic of the original. One big change is that the wall that divides the patio from the interior will be glass (said patio will also have its all-day sunshine filtered by young trees – sounds awesome). Also making the move will be the staff, though they’ll definitely be needing to hire a lot more people considering the breadth of their expansion.
The tiny kitchen will also grow, which will allow chef Nico and his team to do lots of smoked meats, sausages, breads, et cetera – the types of things that he’s always wanted to do but couldn’t on account of the diminutive nature of their original kitchen. “After a few years,” Nico says, “you think, I’m bored of this, I need to move on and the cooks want to see new stuff. We want to make everything in house now.” It’s widely known that Nico can cook at a much higher level than what he currently dishes out (trained at the Michelin-starred Villa Lorraine and toiled at Comme Chez Soi, the Savoy Hotel, and Sydney’s Alhambra), so it’s fair to wonder if the food will be slightly more elevated this time around. “I know, but the current concept works. People like it.” he says. “We’ll always have the mussel pots and the tagines, but the rest of the new plating will be seasonal, with the menu changing about every two months. I really want to focus on that, the farmers, all the way pushing for quality.”
They’re going to be making an entrance into the late night game, too, with a 20 item tapas menu for the expanded lounge and bar area (twice the size of the original with more casual seating arrangements). “People can come and have a meal, relax, have a bottle of wine.” Karri says, asking rhetorically “Where can you go late at night for a bottle of wine with a friend that isn’t a crazy loud pub?” Come to think of it, you could do that at breakfast, too, since the new Chambar will be open all day, serving breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plus brunches on weekends.
Construction starts shortly. Best case scenario: they are out of the original Chambar space in May and into the new Chambar a month later.
by Andrew Morrison | La Pentola owner/chef Lucais Syme and his wife Jill have secured the 1,500 sqft ground floor corner space of the Victoria Block. That’s underneath the old Victorian Hotel at West Pender and Homer (350 W. Pender), right across the street from the original Finch’s and next door to the awesome Paper Hound. With it, they plan to open Cinara, a 40 seat eatery that will feature picture windows looking out onto the street, a small wine-focused bar, and an open kitchen plating contemporary European cuisine with a strong Italian accent. “It’s really our chance to cook from the heart,” Syme says. “We want to create simple, beautiful things.” And I expect that that’s exactly what we’ll get.
The name of the place – pronounced Chinara – is a nod to the humble artichoke (“Prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside,” Syme says). While it is one of several ancient monikers for the wild artichokes of the Levant and the thistle family’s Greek catch-all (Cynarae), Cinara is actually a place, an almost mythic island in the Aegean Sea (now known as Zinara). It was said to be home to some especially alluring Sirens, as well as a mysterious place of banishment. It was where the emperor Tiberius once sent a cheeky Greek named Zeno who dared to employ some flowery language in his presence. Cinara was also the name of a particularly greedy but irresistibly sexy ex-lover of the Roman lyric poet Horace (“the grief I knew in my cups when the delicious Cinara left me” – the poor dear)…
Alas, Syme, as far as I know, is not a poet (lyric or otherwise) and, thank goodness, has not been banished from Yaletown. Operations at La Pentola will continue as normal.
Cinara will be open for dinner only, but breakfasts could be added to the menu as the hotel continues its slow burn of boutiquification (a new lobby is also under construction). Predictions? Lucais and Jill are devotees of quality (witness their tenures at La Quercia and La Ghianda), so I’d be shocked if this wasn’t one of the best new restaurants of 2014. Construction starts this week and opening day is slated for some point in January.
by Andrew Morrison | As Michelle mentioned in yesterday’s Scout List, a new restaurant is opening very soon in the heart of Gastown. We first broke the news about Gringo last month when it was announced that Sean Heather had sold his Judas Goat eatery in Blood Alley to a former employee, Shoel Davidson, and industry lifer Christina Cottell. I recently met up with them for a tour of their tiny, 28 seat Mexi-Cali joint. The paint was still wet on the chairs so it was hard to navigate, but from any vantage point it was pretty unrecognizable from what it used to be. The upside is that what was formerly the kitchen pass is now a bar top. The downside is the loss of one of my favourite pieces of local restaurant art, the Judas Goat mural by Robert Chaplin, the story and pictures of which I’ve included below for posterity…
Anyway, more tacos and Micheladas are coming to Gastown, so that’s a net gain. I’ve seen Karl Gregg’s menu – done in garish hot pink (like the neon “Gringo” sign that will replace Chaplin’s work) – and it’s a tidy soliloquy on the absence of gas burners and deep fryers. The corn tortillas will see either chimichurri-tossed shrimp, blackened cajun chicken with Ranch, your mama’s “taco” seasoned ground chuck, chili and vinegar braised pork, and a veggie option – so not exactly the authentic al pastors and longanizas that some taco fetishists might have been hoping for. But that’s the point of a Mexi-Cali restaurant. It’s not supposed to be what you find street-side in Querétaro or Guanajuato, but rather the stuff that sells in the strip mall across the street from the Walmart in suburban Sacramento. Accordingly, one can expect single servings of “Stadium Nachos”, mexi-dogs, mexi-rice, bar rail Long Island Iced Teas, and so on. If you want to eyeball the complete menu, have at it here.
It’s pretty cheap, unthreatening stuff, so I don’t expect they’ll go wanting for customers at lunch or dinner, which might prove a bit tricky considering how hamstrung the kitchen might get at capacity with some turnover (open until 2am on Friday and Saturday). Like Judas Goat before it, the concept seems like a buy-in to the notion that most visitors to Gastown check out more than one place during the course of an evening, and it’s clear that Gringo isn’t aiming to be the number 1 draw. Rather, I suspect they’ll see lots of people popping in and out prior/post hockey games, before and after suppers elsewhere, or simply for a quickie bite and a margarita after a shift (I trust they’ll see a brisk late night industry trade). They seem to bask in their limitations, even listing their tequila options as “crap” and “ok”. Such a lack of pretension is refreshing (even in a taco shack), which is to say that it won’t be hard to exceed people’s low expectations. It sounds fun to me.
The soft opening is this Friday night [UPDATE: opening delayed until Tuesday]. Bonus: six seat patio in Blood Alley.
by Andrew Morrison | The coffee wonks of the Giannakos family, owners of Cambie’s kickass Revolver, have been in possession of the vacant space next door for a long time now, humming and hawing about what to do with it for many months. They recently settled on a coffee-centric retail store that will also offer Revolver customers a further 20-25 seats. It’s to be called Archive, and they hope to have it complete and open to the public before Christmas.
Inside, we can expect brewing equipment, books, magazines, cups, mugs, filters – basically everything a hardcore coffee nerd would get excited about (they’ll even help customers design home coffee set ups). For seating, there’s a long communal table (a lovely-looking one at that) running the length of the space parallel to a stand-up bar. For those who take their Honduran Los Manos with a little work, there will be complimentary wireless.
The graphic design work is being sorted by the clever peeps at Post Projects, who are currently working with designer Craig Stanghetta on a wall installation based on the Dewey Decimal System, a sneak peek of which is tabled above (for our younger readers, the system is used in libraries to catalogue books). I’m also told that the stain of the wood – currently a light amber – will end up being a little darker.
There is talk of the two businesses – Revolver and Archive – becoming umbilically joined by way of a new door punched through the wall that currently divides them, but that likely won’t happen for a while yet. In the beginning, we’ll probably have to grab our coffee at Revolver, exit (because it’s full, natch) and go next door.
by Andrew Morrison | The good folks at the Fraserhood’s awesome Matchstick Coffee Roasters have picked up a space in Chinatown. If you’re unfamiliar with Matchstick, they’ve been kicking ass at Fraser & Kingsway for coming up on two years now, squarely focusing on hand-crafted preparation of single-origin, high quality coffees. They’re working on getting their building permit for the 2,800 sqft space at 213 East Georgia – the same block as Mamie Taylor’s and Phnom Penh, and just a few doors in from Main Street - with the goal of opening up in the early new year. More details soon.
by Andrew Morrison | I toured The Emerald last night. The second-floor, old school Vegas-inspired restaurant and lounge from Rachel Zottenberg and David Duprey (The Narrow, Rumpus Room, Rickshaw, Fox Cabaret) is set to open next week at 555 Gore Street between Keefer and Pender on the eastern edge of Chinatown. They’re doing a private friends and family dry run this evening and then opening to the public – softly – on Monday night.
The Emerald is split into four sections – a 23 seat bar and lounge, a 65 seat dining room complete with white linen table cloths, a semi-private “boardroom” long table, and a still-unfinished performance venue tucked away in the back that will showcase live comedy acts and such.
It’s pretty amazing what they’ve done with the place. I certainly didn’t expect to find what I found when I climbed the ruby-carpeted stairs. What used to be the old Fu Wah dim sum joint (the place had been dormant since before the Boer War) has been transformed into something straight out of Nevada, circa 1960. There are Rothko paintings (copies on canvas done by a friend) on the walls, round tables, deep set booths, vintage blown glass bric-a-brac set in the room dividers, a mounted sailfish, cozy recliners, huge chandeliers, even a bearskin. It’s almost like a movie set, and there’s nothing on the exterior that hints at the interior save for an old Sinatra quote on the awning: “The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.”
The menu fits it like a glove. Think scampi, prawn cocktail, waffle fries, shake and bake cauliflower, tea sandwiches, spaghetti and meatballs (including a vegetarian version), and a great many other things that gel with the theme. There are about 15 beer taps in the lounge, nearly all of them craft and local, plus a deep list of vernacular cocktails that includes a Bloody Caesar made at the table from a push cart (an accidental nod to the room’s dim sum past?).
The hours will be from 5pm to midnight seven days a week with cheap Vegas-style brunches on weekends.
by Andrew Morrison | A new cafe called Timbertrain Coffee Roasters is opening soon at 311 West Cordova (the old Dream boutique space in the heritage Petrina Block building across from Old Faithful). It’s owned by three young friends who love coffee and were looking for a change of career. They are Jeff Shin, an ex-Toyota salesman; Min Shin, a former currency/precious metals traderl; and Peter Kim, a former accountant with Deloitte & Touche. Their cafe will offer 16 seats, a small selection of pastries and coffee retail, plus coffee (using the Kalita method) and shots pulled from a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine. They’ll be using signature beans, which will be roasted at their own facility out in Langley, which – crossed fingers – should start production later this month. I can’t say much about the design at this point aside from the fact that they have the architects from Simcic + Uhrich on board (the folks who did Brassneck), and that their contractor is Harmony Pacific. Opening day is slated for some point this Fall (October at the earliest).
by Andrew Morrison | Ben Ernst and Erica Bernardi of Earnest Ice Cream are opening their brick and mortar ice cream parlour and cafe at 3992 Fraser St. today from 5pm to 10pm (formerly The Outpost Cafe). The makers of small batch ice cream started last year with an innovative cycle-freezer that they pedalled to farmer’s markets and various food festivals around town. In that time, they quickly expanded their retail distribution to discerning shops around town, slowly building up their brand’s reputation for quality ingredients, consistent deliciousness, and awesome one-offs (mmm, whiskey hazelnut). Sure and soon enough, the demand started to outstrip the supply, and opening an ice cream parlour with a production facility in the back was the next logical step for them. Ben, Erica, and their staff hosted a “friends and family” dry run last night, scooping cones of salted caramel, strawberry and basil, Tahitian vanilla, and milk chocolate (among other flavours) while pouring celebratory sleeves from Mount Pleasant’s brand new 33 Acres. They’ll be offering ice cream cones, pints, and affogatos (yes!), plus espresso and “pour over” coffee from Matchstick. It’s a lovely space with a bright, airy feel, cozy seating (I love me some swivel stools!), and fully stocked freezers. Take a look above and below and go grab yourself a scoop!
by Andrew Morrison | The Latin-themed “Cuchillo” (Spanish for “Knife”) at 261 Powell St. has its occupancy and liquor permits all set. The highly anticipated 93 seat restaurant from John Cooper and former Cobre co-owner/chef Stu Irving will open for friends and family tomorrow (Saturday) night with soft opening evenings to follow over the long weekend. For all the details on what to expect, click here. You can also check out the menu (draft) mixed in with the photos below. Dig the rear nook (burgundy couch), the lengthy hightop communal table facing the long bar (ably manned by this year’s Vancouver Magazine Bartender of the Year, “H”) with its block bench seating, and the artwork by Erin Sinclair. It all looks awesome. Break a leg, fellas!